Immunoglobulin (Ig) E is the critical effector molecule in allergic reactions. Consequently, research efforts to understand the biology of IgE-expressing cells is of paramount importance. In particular, the role of IgE+ memory B cells (MBCs) in the perpetuation of allergic reactivity has been the subject of intense research. Studies in mice have convincingly established that IgE+ B cells are rare and transient and, therefore, an unlikely candidate to maintain allergic disease. In contrast, IgE+ MBCs have been detected by flow cytometry in the sputum and peripheral blood of humans and have been proposed as a clinical marker of allergic disease. We established a method to genetically validate, at the single-cell level, the putative IgE+ MBCs identified by flow cytometry from humans. We, then used this information to develop an enhanced flow cytometry protocol that more accurately identifies
bona fideIgE+ MBCs. We found that IgE+ MBCs were detected in some patients with atopic dermatitis, but at a frequency that was ~100 times lower than previously reported. We also found that IgE+ MBCs were undetectable in PBMCs from peanut allergic patients. These findings provide tools to identify bona fideIgE+ MBCs, demonstrate their extreme rarity in circulation and are consistent with the lack of a central role for IgE+ MBCs in the maintenance of allergic sensitivity. One Sentence Summary
The frequency of IgE+ MBCs in the peripheral circulation of humans is orders of magnitude lower than previously reported and comparable between allergic and healthy donors, which cautions about the clinical utility of their assessment.